Decarbonising Ireland’s farms
Teagasc researchers are exploring ways in which farmers can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and improve their energy efficiency.
Fossil fuel costs are continuing to escalate along with future uncertainties in fuel supplies. As such, the use of renewable, home-grown biomass as a heating solution in agriculture is becoming more and more relevant, particularly to the poultry, pig, dairy and horticultural sectors.
To support work in this area, Teagasc is a partner on AgroFossilFree – an EU Horizon 2020 project focused on how farmers can improve their margins by cutting energy costs. The project is helping farmers improve their energy efficiency and deploy renewable technologies, while also improving their farms’ financial and environmental sustainability.
AgroFossilFree seeks to create a framework under which farmers, advisors, educators, researchers and technology developers and providers will co-operate to evaluate and promote currently available
Fossil-Energy-Free Technologies and Strategies (FEFTS) in EU agriculture.
Contributing to EU policy
AgroFossilFree fits in well with EU policies and strategies. The EU has a target to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. At the heart of its plan to achieve this target are policies centred on clean energy and farm-to-fork methodology. They include approaches to energy, climate mitigation and adaptation, land, agriculture and digital technologies, and need to be fostered at European, national, regional and local level.
Many sectors are putting effort into furthering renewable energy and energy efficiency, but agriculture is lagging behind. There are many experiences and lessons that we can adapt from these sectors, however, to apply in agriculture’s move towards de-fossilisation.
AgroFossilFree will produce recommendations and ideas on future research and innovation projects that could assist in developing new FEFTS or optimising existing ones, to be integrated in farming processes in the best way for farmers to get along with. In addition, the project will produce policy guidelines to be submitted to the European Council on how to achieve the goal of de-fossilisation in European agriculture.
The steps will be presented as a roadmap, with the analysis of the current energy status in the sector used as a basis. The policies and strategies derived by this process will start from the sub-sectors that are the most fossil-energy consuming and the least energy efficient.
Going national and international
As part of the research project, Teagasc has been involved in three national and two international workshops, focusing on topics such as horticulture glasshouse energy, open field agriculture and livestock energy systems. The main theme of these workshops was the use of FEFTS.
Out of AgroFossilFree also came AgEnergy – an online platform containing all available FEFTS in the form of easily accessible and comprehensive end-user material. It provides easy access to available FEFTS and allows users to interact with relevant stakeholders to express ideas and needs.
It is widely acknowledged that the way we produce and use energy is going to change dramatically over the coming years due to the drive to decarbonise our energy use. Renewable energy options have been offering many benefits for farm businesses across Europe for decades, and the publication of the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan has been positive towards on-farm renewables. Opportunities will exist for farmers to improve their energy efficiency, generate renewable electricity and sell the excess to the grid, and the learnings from AgroFossilFree can help in navigating this.
AgroFossilFree (agrofossilfree.eu) is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 101000496.
Energy & Rural Development Specialist